San Tan Brewing Company - the East Valley-based craft brewery and restaurant, acclaimed since its opening in 2007 - is looking to expand its business beyond its downtown Chandler facility, with goals of establishishg another "landmark destination" along the way.
Anthony Canecchia, who co-owns San Tan Brewing with Heather Sterling and Aaron Sanchez, said that he and his partners have looked at about a dozen properties throughout the Valley within the last six months in an attempt to identify which ones would best suit their goal of establishing a second facility in a historic building - one that could house a full-scale restaurant, brewing production facility and merchandise shop for the estimated $7 to $10 million project.
Opening a new location would be in addition to the company's current Chandler location at 8 San Marcos Place. The site is part of the former A.J. Chandler Improvement Co. building, built in 1913 before it later became the Valley National Bank building in 1952.
Canecchia confirmed to the Tribune this week that the former Sunkist Citrus Growers Association building in Mesa is among the East Valley locations that San Tan is considering to expand its operations into. In talks with the City of Mesa, San Tan Brewing could presumably set up shop in the the 70,000 square-foot 1930s-era orange-brick building along seven acres at 254 W. Broadway Road and Country Club Drive, although other Mesa and East Valley locations are still in the running.
"We don't want to rule anything out," Canecchia said of the Sunkist building being under consideration. "We like the building for its history and the land that comes with it that would allow us to have a restaurant and full-scale production facility. Ideally, we'd like to have as much as possible. It's a matter of what do we need? What do we want? And, it's a matter of the commercial real estate environment and what the banks will loan."
Canecchia also said that San Tan had considered the former Rock Bottom Brewery building at South 51st Street and Ray Road in Ahwatukee, but it wasn't large enough to suit their needs for a full-scale production facility.
"We're looking for a 45,000 to 65,000-square-foot building," Canecchia said.
Owners of the Tempe-based Four Peaks Brewing Company had considered the Sunkist Growers Association building last summer, but decided on a property along Broadway Road near Hardy Drive which it plans to renovate and open next year.
Melissa Woodall, downtown project manager for Mesa, said Wednesday that the property remains owned by the Sunkist Citrus Growers Association and that there has not been any recent activity on it. The property includes two parcels of land, one of which is across the street from the building that formerly served as a staging area for the trucks.
"We believe that the property has great potential for development, whether for manufacturing or production," Woodall said. "It's an iconic part of Mesa's history and we would like to see it operate as a landmark destination."
Whether the final spot is in Mesa or elsewhere, San Tan Brewing Company's growth efforts come as domestic beer sales are down 2.3 percent from a year ago and microbrew sales are up 14.7 percent during that time, according to the Brewer's Association, a national organization for craft brewers.
San Tan, which distributes throughout the Grand Canyon state, manufactures four core beers and four seasonal brews with Devil's Ale being its flagship and most popular beer, Canecchia said.
Canecchia was quick to cite a good relationship with Chandler and that they have a lot of community support, which has also led the business to consider other locations in the company's home city. One overriding goal would be to find a good location that could also serve as a tourist draw, especially during Major League Baseball's spring training.
"We really haven't decided on any locations," Canecchia said. "There's been a lot of talk and we put that on hold during the holidays. We still have a business to run; we're taking our time. It's definitely a large investment, not something we're going to rush into. Sometimes your eyes get bigger than your options. We'd like to have a site identified this year and we'll see where the commercial real estate market is. We're excited."
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